List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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was to open a return to France for that man whom he regarded as his
deadliest foe.  So, feeling that he had nothing more to fear from
Charles, he sent him a brief at Turin, where he had stopped for a
short time to give aid to Novara, therein commanding him, by virtue
of his pontifical authority, to depart out of Italy with his army,
and to recall within ten days those of his troops that still remained
in the kingdom of Naples, on pain of excommunication, and a summons
to appear before him in person.

Charles VIII replied:

(1) That he did not understand how the pope, the chief of the league,
ordered him to leave Italy, whereas the confederates had not only
refused him a passage, but had even attempted, though unsuccessfully,
as perhaps His Holiness knew, to cut off his return into France;

(2) That, as to recalling his troops from Naples, he was not so
irreligious as to do that, since they had not entered the kingdom
without the consent and blessing of His Holiness;

(3) That he was exceedingly surprised that the pope should require
his presence in person at the capital of the Christian world just at
the present time, when six weeks previously, at the time of his
return from Naples, although he ardently desired an interview with
His Holiness, that he might offer proofs of his respect and
obedience, His Holiness, instead of according this favour, had
quitted Rome so hastily on his approach that he had not been able to
come up with him by any efforts whatsoever.  On this point, however,
he promised to give His Holiness the satisfaction he desired, if he
would engage this time to wait for him: he would therefore return to
Rome so soon as the affairs that brought him back to his own kingdom
had been satisfactorily, settled.

Although in this reply there was a touch of mockery and defiance,
Charles was none the less compelled by the circumstances of the case
to obey the pope's strange brief.  His presence was so much needed in
France that, in spite of the arrival of a Swiss reinforcement, he was
compelled to conclude a peace with Ludovico Sforza, whereby he
yielded Novara to him; while Gilbert de Montpensier and d'Aubigny,
after defending, inch by inch, Calabria, the Basilicate, and Naples,
were obliged to sign the capitulation of Atella, after a siege of
thirty-two days, on the 20th of July, 1496.  This involved giving
back to Ferdinand II, King of Naples, all the palaces and fortresses
of his kingdom; which indeed he did but enjoy for three months, dying
of exhaustion on the 7th of September following, at the Castello
della Somma, at the foot of Vesuvius; all the attentions lavished
upon him by his young wife could not repair the evil that her beauty
had wrought.

His uncle Frederic succeeded; and so, in the three years of his
papacy, Alexander VI had seen five kings upon the throne of Naples,
while he was establishing himself more firmly upon his own pontifical
seat--Ferdinand I, Alfonso I, Charles VIII, Ferdinand II, and
Frederic.  All this agitation about his throne, this rapid succession
of sovereigns, was the best thing possible for Alexander; for each
new monarch became actually king only on condition of his receiving
the pontifical investiture.  The consequence was that Alexander was
the only gainer in power and credit by these changes; for the Duke of
Milan and the republics of Florence and Venice had successively
recognised him as supreme head of the Church, in spite of his simony;
moreover, the five kings of Naples had in turn paid him homage.  So
he thought the time had now come for founding a mighty family; and
for this he relied upon the Duke of Gandia, who was to hold all the
highest temporal dignities; and upon Caesar Borgia, who was to be
appointed to all the great ecclesiastical offices.  The pope made
sure of the success of these new projects by electing four Spanish
cardinals, who brought up the number of his compatriots in the Sacred
College to twenty-two, thus assuring him a constant and certain

The first requirement of the pope's policy was to clear away from the
neighbourhood of Rome all those petty lords whom most people call
vicars of the Church, but whom Alexander called the shackles of the
papacy.  We saw that he had already begun this work by rousing the
Orsini against the Colonna family, when Charles VIII's enterprise
compelled him to concentrate all his mental resources, and also the
forces of his States, so as to secure his own personal safety.

It had come about through their own imprudent action that the Orsini,
the pope's old friends, were now in the pay of the French, and had
entered the kingdom of Naples with them, where one of them, Virginio,
a very important member of their powerful house, had been taken
prisoner during the war, and was Ferdinand II's captive.  Alexander
could not let this opportunity escape him; so, first ordering the
King of Naples not to release a man who, ever since the 1st of June,
1496, had been a declared rebel, he pronounced a sentence of
confiscation against Virginio Orsini and his whole family in a secret
consistory, which sat on the 26th of October following--that is to
say, in the early days of the reign of Frederic, whom he knew to be
entirely at his command, owing to the King's great desire of getting
the investiture from him; then, as it was not enough to declare the
goods confiscated, without also dispossessing the owners, he made
overtures to the Colonna family, saying he would commission them, in
proof of their new bond of friendship, to execute the order given
against their old enemies under the direction of his son Francesco,
Duke of Gandia.  In this fashion he contrived to weaken his
neighbours each by means of the other, till such time as he could
safely attack and put an end to conquered and conqueror alike.

The Colonna family accepted this proposition, and the Duke of Gandia
was named General of the Church: his father in his pontifical robes
bestowed on him the insignia of this office in the church of St.
Peter's at Rome.


Matters went forward as Alexander had wished, and before the end of
the year the pontifical army had, seized a great number of castles
and fortresses that belonged to the Orsini, who thought themselves
already lost when Charles VIII came to the rescue.  They had
addressed themselves to him without much hope that he could be of
real use to there, with his want of armed troops and his
preoccupation with his own affairs.  He, however, sent Carlo Orsini,
son of Virginio, the prisoner, and Vitellozzo Vitelli, brother of
Camillo Vitelli, one of the three valiant Italian condottieri who had
joined him and fought for him at the crossing of the Taro: These two
captains, whose courage and skill were well known, brought with them
a considerable sum of money from the liberal coffers of Charles VIII.
Now, scarcely had they arrived at Citta di Castello, the centre of
their little sovereignty, and expressed their intention of raising a
band of soldiers, when men presented themselves from all sides to
fight under their banner; so they very soon assembled a small army,
and as they had been able during their stay among the French to study
those matters of military organisation in which France excelled, they
now applied the result of their learning to their own troops: the
improvements were mainly certain changes in the artillery which made
their manoeuvres easier, and the substitution for their ordinary
weapons of pikes similar in form to the Swiss pikes, but two feet
longer.  These changes effected, Vitellozzo Vitelli spent three or
four months in exercising his men in the management of their new
weapons; then, when he thought them fit to make good use of these,
and when he had collected more or less help from the towns of
Perugia, Todi, and Narni, where the inhabitants trembled lest their
turn should come after the Orsini's, as the Orsini's had followed on
the Colonnas', he marched towards Braccianno, which was being
besieged by the Duke of Urbino, who had been lent to the pope by the
Venetians, in virtue of the treaty quoted above.

The Venetian general, when he heard of Vitelli's approach, thought he
might as well spare him half his journey, and marched out to confront
him: the two armies met in the Soriano road, and the battle
straightway began.  The pontifical army had a body of eight hundred
Germans, on which the Dukes of Urbino and Gandia chiefly relied, as
well they might, for they were the best troops in the world; but
Vitelli attacked these picked men with his infantry, who, armed with
their formidable pikes, ran them through, while they with arms four
feet shorter had no chance even of returning the blows they received;
at the same time Vitelli's light troops wheeled upon the flank,
following their most rapid movements, and silencing the enemy's
artillery by the swiftness and accuracy of their attack.  The
pontifical troops were put to flight, though after a longer
resistance than might have been expected when they had to sustain the
attack of an army so much better equipped than their own; with them
they bore to Ronciglione the Duke of Gandia, wounded in the face by a
pike-thrust, Fabrizia Calonna, and the envoy; the Duke of Urbino, who
was fighting in the rear to aid the retreat, was taken prisoner with
all his artillery and the baggage of the conquered army.  But this
success, great as it was, did not so swell the pride of Vitellozza
Vitelli as to make him oblivious of his position.  He knew that he
and the Orsini together were too weak to sustain a war of such
magnitude; that the little store of money to which he owed the
existence of his army would very soon be expended and his army would
disappear with it.  So he hastened to get pardoned far the victory by
making propositions which he would very likely have refused had he
been the vanquished party; and the pope accepted his conditions
without demur; during the interval having heard that Trivulce had
just recrossed the Alps and re-entered Italy with three thousand
Swiss, and fearing lest the Italian general might only be the advance

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